❍ Field of current or former occupation: Education
❍ Email: [email protected]
Question: What is your current occupation and where do you live? Please briefly describe your duties and responsibilities. How long have you been at this position?
Margaret Cody: I am currently a high school German teacher in a Minneapolis suburb (Apple Valley). I teach German 1-4; German 4 is taught through the University of Minnesota College in the Schools program. I also have a GAPP exchange with a partner school in Gross-Gerau, Germany. Every other summer, I take around 15 AVHS students to Germany for three weeks, then their German partners attend our school for 3 weeks in October. This is my 7th year at AVHS and my 10th year teaching.
Right now, I am only teaching German part-time, as I am also working on a Department of Labor STEM grant awarded to my school. I work with students to help them match their skills and interests to potential jobs, then coordinate work and college experiences for students. This is my last year working on the grant; I will be back to teaching full-time next year.
Question: Did studying German language and culture at Williams College help you in your professional and personal development? If yes, then how were German Studies useful to you? What opportunities and challenges did the German major open up for you both specific to your current occupation and more generally?
Margaret Cody: I had no plans of teaching German when I was at Williams. I was a political science major, but I wanted to maintain my German (I was part of a magnet program in Atlanta that started daily language instruction in 4th grade). I ended up with a double major, then took a Fulbright teaching assistantship because it was the easiest way to live in Germany for the year. I loved teaching, but was still thinking I would do more in ed. policy than classroom teaching. I came back to the US, got an MA in Second Language and Culture Education at UMN, then planned to teach for a few years to get some experience and go back for a PhD in Ed. Policy. It never happened, because I love teaching German, getting to know my students over their four years of high school, and taking many of them on their first international trips. I think studying at Williams has given me the ability to be a multi-faceted teacher. Kids know I can help them with German, but they also come to me with English, government, physics and math questions. This is one of the reasons that I was tagged to work on the federal grant, which has been a really interesting experience.
Question: Please share your advice or recommendation about the German department at Williams to a prospective student who is considering taking courses or majoring in our program.
Margaret Cody: As a German major at Williams, I had lots of personal attention, and I think my writing (not just in German, but overall) really improved because I was able to focus not just on the language, but on constructing my arguments, with professors who had time and interest in working with me. The history and philosophy that learned through the German studies courses in my major have given me the ability to teach more culture and history, which I think has kept some students who struggle with grammar in my program. Also, there is no hiding in a class of 4 students, and I was very comfortable with my speaking ability when I moved to Germany after graduation, even though I hadn’t studied abroad (I competed in a winter sport while at Williams). I did spend a month of one summer at the Goethe Institute in Berlin, but the rest of my language skills came from study in the US.
For what it’s worth, there are many thriving German programs in Minnesota, but we are really suffering now when teachers retire. It’s difficult to find good replacements, and that can make it easy for a school to drop a program that is otherwise successful. I would be happy to be a contact for anyone interested in teaching/leading travel abroad, or for anyone interested in the Fulbright Teaching Assistantship program. My email is [email protected]
Question: Would you be willing to serve as a contact person for current students of German about your career or life path? If so, how should students contact you?
Margaret Cody: I would be happy to answer any other questions; my “accidental” German major has definitely been beneficial to me and led me down a path that is right for me, but definitely not what I planned.